Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day
Festivities Kick Off U.S. Open
By MEGAN MONTALVO
For 16 years, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has hosted a special day of tennis, interactive activities and musical performances for hundreds of children throughout the borough. This year, the festivities will return to Flushing on Aug. 25 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the 17th Annual Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.
While avid tennis fans may be looking forward to the U.S. Open games taking place at the center from Aug. 27 to Sept. 9, local families will be able to get a sneak peek of the field to participate in skill competitions with top athletes such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Kim Clijsters and New York Rangers All-Star Center Brad Richards.
Presented by the Hess Corporation, a global integrated energy company based in New York, Arthur Ashe Kids' Day is an event that honors the late tennis legend Arthur Ashe through the continuation of his mission to use tennis as a means to instill the values of humanitarianism, leadership and academic excellence in children.
According to Michael T. Fiur, executive producer of Arthur Ashe Kids Day, in previous years, many event visitors had not been aware of Arthur Ashe's legacy. To help raise awareness of Ashe's connection to the event, organizers of this year's kids' day will incorporate oversized signage throughout the venue with fun facts about the late tennis star.
"Arthur Ashe was a pioneer in tennis and did a lot for humanity," Fiur said. "He was really one of the first athletes to stand up as a role model for young people not only as an athlete, but also in his life."
Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. is best remembered as a former World No. 1 professional tennis player. Born and raised in Richmond, Va., Ashe went on to win three Grand Slam titles and was the first African-American selected to the United States Davis Cup team.
In 1969, Ashe founded the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network with partners Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder under the mission of developing the character of young people through tennis and education. Since its creation, the NJTL network has grown to include over 600 chapters, which currently serve more than 250,000 youth annually.
After suffering from a heart attack and undergoing two heart surgeries, Ashe discovered he had contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. On Feb. 6, 1993, Ashe died from AIDS-related pneumonia.
He currently retains the title of being the only African-American man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.
Saturday's festivities will take place the main stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which has been named in Ashe's honor.
"We hope through the event signage, people will learn more about his legacy and feel inspired to follow in his footsteps," Fiur said.
|Quddus and Jordin Sparks will host the Kids’ Day festivities, which will kick off the event.
The Grounds Festival at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will offer a wide range of free kid-friendly activities such as relay races, tennis tutorials and obstacle courses beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 25.
As part of the opening ceremony, visitors can catch a free concert at the Hess Express Stage where performances will be made by up-and-coming artists like the City Kids, Love Jones Girlz and Megan and Liz.
The event will be held until 4 p.m., and families can participate in a rotating schedule of activities including story telling, face painting, juggling workshops and tennis games.
Fans of digital games can also indulge themselves with the Mario Tennis Open for Nintendo 3DS. Players of all ages and skill levels will be able to enjoy friendly competition and fast-paced tennis action with the Nintendo 3DS video game.
During the festival, the USTA also encourages visitors to stop by the neighboring Louis Armstrong Stadium, Grandstand and Court 17 to watch tennis pros practice for the U.S. Open.
For the USTA, the event has become a staple opener to the professional games that follow just days later.
"We are thrilled to kick off the 2012 US Open with the 17th annual Arthur Ashe Kids' Day presented by Hess featuring the most popular names in sports and entertainment today," said Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer. "The event holds a long-standing history of providing a day of fun-filled family activities as attendees celebrate the life of Arthur Ashe and his mission to empower children of all ages through tennis."
In previous years, musical acts from big-named stars like Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Britney Spears have graced the main stage at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
This year's lineup will feature concert performances from Carly Rae Jepsen, singer of the hit single "Call Me Maybe," Owl City music artist Adam Young, American teen pop quartet Mindless Behavior and X-Factor break out singer Rachel Crow. Doors will open at noon, with the stadium show following at 1 p.m.
Those who are unable to attend the event in person can still enjoy all the fun from their home on their television sets.
On Aug. 26, CBS will televise the event nationwide from noon to 1:30 p.m. The broadcast will be hosted by pop singer Jordin Sparks and TV personality Quddus.
Sparks is best known for being the youngest winner of the hit singing show "American Idol" and is the star of the recently released Sony Picture film "Sparkle." Quddus is the current TV show host of the ABC summer music competition franchise "Duets."
General admission to the Arthur Ashe Kids' Day festival is free, and tickets for the stadium concert are on sale now through Ticketmaster. To purchase tickets, visit ticketmaster.com or call 1-866-OPEN-TIX. General admission promenade tickets to the stadium show cost $10 and loge tickets are $20. For more information about the event, visit arthurashekidsday.com
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or email@example.com